THOOWOONGGOONARRIN, 2000

Important Australian and International Fine Art + Important Indigenous Art
Melbourne
29 November 2017
74

PADDY NYUNKUNY BEDFORD

(c.1922 – 2007)
THOOWOONGGOONARRIN, 2000

ochres and pigments with synthetic binder on Belgian linen

135.0 x 122.0 cm

bears inscription verso: Jirrawun Arts cat. PB 3 2000.63

Estimate: 
$30,000 – 40,000
Provenance

Jirrawun Arts, Kununurra
Private collection, Darwin

Literature

Storer, R., Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2006, p. 147 (illus.)

Catalogue text

The importance of painting for Paddy Bedford was multi-layered; an expression of country and cultural memory as well as being a claim to identity and consequently an assertion of claim to the land itself. As Michael Dolk argues, painting suggests a physical and tactile relation to land, 'To behold painting is to hold country and to remain beholden to its ancestral tradition’.1

Painting his first works in 1997, aged 75, Paddy Bedford soon became recognised as an innovator and important artist through his unique depictions of East Kimberley history, and he is credited with evolving the artistic tradition forged earlier by Rover Thomas and Paddy Tjaminji. Crafting his own representations of country, Bedford’s formal language is characterised by a symbiotic relationship between bold forms and an elegance and balance in composition. His painting evokes rocky escarpments, rivers and other amorphous features of the Kimberley landscape, whilst at the same time containing a learned and poetical knowledge of the land and its creation stories. As curator Russell Storer observes, ‘his paintings articulate a complex dialectic between modern materials and traditional pictorial conventions, contemporary experience and ancient belief systems’.2

Catalogued as painting PB 8 2000.91 in Bedford's chronological index of works, this painting on linen was executed in the year 2000, and represents the country of Tunganary,Thoowoonggoonarrin, to the south of Bedford Downs in his mother's country. Tunganary Gorge is home to a permanent waterhole and is the dreaming place for Thoowoonggoonarrin, a large tree with dark leaves that is related to the fig tree (Celtis philippinensis). The artist's mother's sister died and is buried there. Thoowoonggoonarrin, 2000 can be seen as a bridge, characterising Bedford's link between the more familiar style of the earlier east Kimberley painters and his innovative changes in style and technique to create his own representations of country. Here, large forms have become dominant along with the interplay between positive and negative space. It is important to note that multiple narratives intertwine in Bedford’s paintings. Family stories, historical events and a deep connection to his country are often masked by the simple, bold starkness of his technique.

1. Dolk, M., 'Are we Strangers in this Place', in Storer, R., Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2006, p. 20
2. Storer, R., Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2006, p. 11

CRISPIN GUTTERIDGE